Various Artists

Ham Hocks and Cornbread

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With 118 tracks spread over four jam-packed CDs, the budget-priced Ham Hocks and Cornbread is yet another inexpensive but worthwhile compilation from the reissue label JSP. Subtitled "The pounding, pulsating roots of rock & roll," this set consists primarily of classic jump blues sides of the '40s and early '50s. Artists range from famous folk like Johnny Otis (represented by the rollicking big-band instrumental "Barrelhouse Stomp") and Memphis stalwart Rufus Thomas (performing "Gonna Bring My Baby Back" under the pseudonym Mr. Swing) to a wide variety of names known only to completists. Songs range from Duke Ellington sideman Johnny Hodges' suave "Castle Rock" to James Von Streeter's greasy blues honker "Chitlins," complete with corny shouted interjections from the band. Remastering, as always with JSP releases, is a bit spotty, with several tracks clearly taken from vinyl, but any concerns are limited by the rarity of these songs, along with the wallet-pleasing price. For the casual fan or interested newcomer, Ham Hocks and Cornbread is tough to beat.

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